The Hungry Imagination

The Hungry Imagination by Adam Lucero

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Welcome to The Hungry Imagination newsletter. Every month I write an article about perceptual engineering and post it here — for free. Part art, part science, and for anyone fascinated by the peculiarities of the mind. → Armando Lucero


and the artist way

by Arm♠ndo Lucero

Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash
Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

From a philosophical approach “three” has appeared mystical, mysterious, and alluring. Which is often the case for things we yet to comprehend. Sometimes it feels more complete when absorbing items in threes. Is it that we distinguish three on our own or rather that we cannot help but see three regardless of what patterns are there? Either way, history shows we have a strong predilection to seeing things in groups, but especially three. It seems to be a proven rhythm found in the arts and life in general. In geometry, the tetrahedron is essentially the basic building block of the universe.[1] Therefore the triangle is a significant shape that appears everywhere. It is used for all construction, and without adhering to the principles of the triangle, buildings would fall apart.[2]

We have a need to search for patterns whether they reflect truth or not but for this reason an artist can use this propensity to capture our intrigue.[3] Anyone who discovers familiar shapes in a cloud has experienced a tendency towards patterns. The triangle then is appealing from both an engineering and an artistic point of view because of its significant influence transcending everywhere. If we are the stuff of the universe, then we are structures of triangles, and it will influence our thinking to seek and recognize them. We then manipulate and embellish upon these basic building blocks to make more elaborate patterns of structure not only materially but with our thoughts.

Gif by Rafael on Wikimedia
Gif by Rafael on Wikimedia

Consider the complexities of music. What musicians discover to lure us in the best way possible also reveal underlying mathematical models. To the point that those artists who are most successfully intriguing, the ones most memorably appealing, can show measurable differences distinct from all others through the analysis of patterns. Musicians, as well as dancers, painters, writers, speakers, sculptors, or movie makers, who consistently and profoundly captivate us until we submit with laughter or tears, are based on thoughtfully planned designs. Beautiful architecture that is emotionally affecting draws from the knowledge of engineering. Hence Magic, by way of perceptual-engineering[4], is both science and art because the tools discovered can be applied and repeated with a significant degree of accuracy but simultaneously subject to the whims of the observers’ mindset which is malleable.


By studying these patterns, we find the dance between repetition and change, inserted strategically for best results. The enigmatic tool of the emotional tension spring between continuity and dynamics. How does one attain such expertise to lead like a conductor does an orchestra? It is a daunting task, but it can be studied. The patterns are there. Compounding this difficulty is that people come in all types, each with their own biological and experiential influences. Which would explain why each culture tends towards their own kind of music. We are primed to adapt to our given culture, which is a necessity for survival. Once we are primed to specific likes and dislikes, we are inclined to adhere to them, to the ways of our acquired culture, and its language.

Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” ― Gandhi

After we get past the idea of merely thinking in threes, we may explore the more complex groupings, but always there is a pattern to discover and follow. The artist way is all about seeking “patterns” that are then rearranged for the purpose of procuring emotional content to elicit a response from the observer. Not just any response but specific and predictable responses. Considering music has so much to offer for study, we can then compare a well-composed piece of magic to a Bach Fugue. Everything in its rightful place for maximum effect. Not too much, not too little, but all parts supporting and powerful as a whole. An exercise of thinking creatively and strategically to affect us emotionally by resonating with what is intrinsic to all of us; patterns.

My interpretation of a great artist is one who has mastered the skill to communicate that which defies most of us. Doing what anyone else can do is not what an artist does. Painting by numbers is not the same as Picasso. All artist do art, but doing art does not make the artist. To read something, hear something, see something, or experience anything prepared by an artist can so profoundly affect us intellectually and emotionally we may be awestruck. Because the one who is the maker of such an arrangement seems to step outside the box of commonality and achieve the distinction of what others deem “artist.” Curiously, artists sometimes speak in abstractions which are difficult to interpret into academia — often explaining that “they just do it.” Which I believe is unconscious competence through years of experience from honing their skill.[5]

"The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” ― Michelangelo Buonarroti. Poetic but obscure. Surprisingly, some artists do not recall how they became so expert. Often ignoring the massive work and experience that came before. Consider a scientist whose ability improves with every formal and proper investigation which eventually becomes second nature; to the point of appearing as if “they just do it.” When such an expert has a hunch, scientific training still guides them even without their awareness.

It does not have to be three of course, but it is a good starting point as a fundamental building block. “3” can be applied to a beginning, a middle, and an end, three compositions as a set in a show, and three sets as a complete show, then iterate from there.[6] You might also follow your gut, but with caution. Be aware that knowledge based on aesthetics alone is neither precise, proven, or true, and must be tested. However, unconscious competence could sometimes elevate us to the brink of knowing just before revelation. As I am fond of saying: Beauty is natures hint for truth, and by honing our artful skills to recognize it, are we not better scientist? Make no mistake, an expert artist is fluent in a language that is ripe with knowledge and wisdom. The information is valuable and worthy of scientific investigation but to unravel the mystery requires transcending both art and science as if they are one.[7]

Sincerely, Armando Lucero

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Last Word

As a perceptual engineer, I have observed that people can and often do obtain knowledge without their awareness. Which then influences their decisions about the world. This can have both positive and negative consequences but in regards to the good ones, the information gathered can sometimes lead one to discover a profound truth yet not explain how they arrived at it. Some call it intuition but a guess based on a genuine intellectual pursuit of truth, while using reliable tools with vast experience in experiments should not be dismissed as mere guesswork. It could be unconscious competence. Ironically, science admonishes guesswork while practicing it all along. Otherwise, how would any experiment begin without the hunch to ask the questions in the first place? The problem is in distinguishing the difference between what is valuable insight or not.


🔗 The Book of Threes
🔗 Thomas Jefferson, Steve Jobs, and the Rule of 3
🔗 The Rule of Three
🔗 Truth and Beauty: The Two Faces of Science
🔗 Beauty is truth, truth is beauty, and other lies of physics
🔗 27 Responses to the Question “What is Art?”
🔗 The Science of Patterns
🔗 Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories
🔗 The Zipf Mystery
🔗 CYMATICS: Science Vs. Music - Nigel Stanford


The articles cover many subjects related to perceptual engineering and I am honored that you took valuable time to read them, and so for all of you who contributed and supported me, here is a very big...

Thank You!

  1. “All of the definable structuring of Universe is tetrahedrally coordinate in rational number increments of the tetrahedron. By tetrahedron, we mean the minimum thinkable set that would subdivide the Universe and have the interconnectedness where it comes back upon itself. The basic structural unit of physical Universe quantitation, tetrahedron has the fundamental prime number oneness.” ↦ Buckminster Fuller  ↩

  2. “Within it (tetrahedron) lies the energy that holds all life together. The bonds that hold atoms, particles and molecules together, all the way down to nanoparticles and all the way up to macroparticles, are tetrahedral. Everything that exists as you conceive of it in a 3-dimensional world, is held together by these tetrahedral bonds.” ↦ Buckminster Fuller  ↩

  3. “There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists.” ↦ E.H Gombrich  ↩

  4. “A Perceptual Engineer can bamboozle an observer by delivering information covertly for them to perceive what does not exist, like an infectious distortion of reality it then germinates without their awareness — influencing their every thought until the mind assumes the unreal while the real (whatever that is) remains hidden.” ↦ Armando Lucero  ↩

  5. Unconscious Competence: The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned. ↦ Wikipedia  ↩

  6. The method applied to a single composition is the same employed for an entire show; complexity from simplicity. E.g., Three coins can vanish one by one, until all transpose; very basic. What about four? Three coins disappear, each transpose with a surprise on the fourth. Try three phases. 1. Instantly produce four coins, 2. magically transpose each with a surprise on the fourth; 3. finally, all coins vanish and return to pocket. Add a coffee cup. 1. Each coin is plucked from the air and heard dropped into the coffee cup before poured out, 2. magically transpose each then end with surprise on the fourth; 3. all coins are dumped back into the cup but then shown vanished when the coffee cup is turned. Or start and finish the coffee cup filled with liquid. Do you see a pattern? ↦ Armando Lucero  ↩

  7. “It is a mysterious thing, in fact, how something that looks attractive may have a better chance of being true than something which looks ugly. I have noticed on many occasions (in my own work) where there might, for example, be two guesses that could be made as to the solution of a problem, and in the first case I’d think how nice it would be if it were true; whereas in the second case I’d not care very much about the result even if it were true. So often, in fact, it turns out that the more attractive possibility is the true one.” ↦ Roger Penrose  ↩

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